The federal government devotes a substantial and growing share of its budget to benefits for the nation's retirees through Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other programs. According to CBO’s projections, federal spending on the “big three” benefit programs will grow from less than half of all federal spending in 2012 to three-fifths in 2023. CBO projects federal spending for those programs under current law for the next decade and for the longer term, and it analyzes a wide range of proposals to change those programs. (See Health Care for further discussion of CBO’s work on federal health care programs.) Additionally, the exclusion of pension contributions and earnings from taxable income constitutes one of the largest preferences in the federal income tax code. Together with the staff of the Joint Committee on Taxation, CBO analyzes the budgetary and economic effects of such tax preferences and potential changes to them.

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